Volvo Banks On Radio’s Reach For Summer Tie-in

If you’ve been watching television at all this summer, you probably already know about the Volvo SUV buried somewhere on the planet, just waiting to be found. But if the constant ads touting the contest, just one part of Volvo’s massive summer tie-in with Walt Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest, aren’t enough to send you hunting for a new car, the automaker is hoping a new radio campaign will do the trick.

Volvo is using radio as the primary medium in the U.S. to drive consumers to more than 300 dealerships this summer while the quest is on for the “buried treasure.” The campaign, orchestrated by ad sales rep Clear Channel Katz Advantage, kicks off July 17 in the top 32 markets where Volvos are sold.

The “treasure chest” campaign will direct listeners to local Volvo retailers for coins containing a code and the address of a Web site where they can submit their e-mail address to unlock a virtual treasure chest of prizes, including a trip for four to a tropical locale, a home entertainment system and Kodak digital cameras. The six-week campaign includes live remotes at nearly 100 dealerships and 30- and 60-second units produced by Havas’ Euro RSCG on 168 stations. Volvo is believed to be spending under $5 million on the effort, but wouldn’t confirm the exact amount.

“We wanted to do something more than the average radio buy,” said Linda Gangeri, national advertising manager, Volvo Cars of North America. The challenge, she said, was to “continue the momentum at retail with an initiative that would not only build on the national promotion but also make the dealerships a fun place to visit during the summer months and expose consumers” to both Volvo products and seasonal sales promotions.

The carmaker believes that radio is the right go-to medium for the campaign due to its “portability,” especially during the summer driving season, when families spend a lot of time on the road. “Summer months are a time for families to be out and about,” said Gangeri. “People move away from TV, and radio is a more frequently listened-to medium.”

Jeanne Schad, regional director, Clear Channel Katz Advantage, said that because summer is when “people are being bombarded with automotive sell-down messages,” the Pirates tie-in is a way to stand out. The national promotion launched June 12.

“If a consumer is on the fence—maybe they’ve thought about Volvo, maybe they haven’t—hearing a message tied to Pirates of the Caribbean might be the extra thing that gets them to notice Volvo and go down to their Volvo retailer,” said Tanya Berman, vice president, account director at Volvo media agency MPG, a unit of Havas. The radio buy, she said, “will give us extra exposure, so it gives us extra frequency” beyond the national promotion, said Berman.

Affordability was also an issue, Gangeri said. “Volvo is just a small automotive brand, and media dollars are limited.” Ad spend for the carmaker, a unit of Ford, was $70 million in 2005, of which $6.5 million went to radio, per TNS Media Intelligence.

There’s a lot at stake for the carmaker, which is trying to reverse a sales slump that began last year. According to, sales of the Volvo XC90 SUV, the model that is tied to Pirates, were down 12 percent for the first six months of 2006 in the U.S.

So far, the national promotion is producing positive results: about one quarter of those going online seeking clues to the buried SUV are opting for additional information about Volvo products, said Gangeri, “so we can go back out and remarket.”

Volvo has similarly high hopes for the radio launch. In addition to spots and promotional announcements, CCKA has lined up roughly 100 live remote broadcasts with participating Volvo retailers around the country. CCKA president Bonnie Press says the remotes help break through ad clutter. “Your loyalty is to a radio station,” she said. “That implied endorsement of the radio station aligning itself with a brand can create the call to action.”